FundRaiser Blog

The FundRaiser Software Blog is an excellent resource for nonprofit organizations looking to learn more about fundraising, donor management, membership management, and much more.

2 Situations When You Might Want to Consider Using Access or Excel for Donor Management

With the proper template (and there is one for nonprofits included with Access), it's not too difficult for someone with a modicum of computer savvy to put together a program to handle the basics of fundraising using either Excel or Access. However, remember that the fundraising world is not static, and neither should be your fundraising program—continuing maintenance could become a drain on your time and resources.

In our opinion, there are two situations in which using Access or Excel (or similar products) might make sense.

Situation #1 Your organization is brand new

so new that the people involved aren't sure just where it's going or how long it will exist.

In that case, all that is really needed is a basic mailing list to keep contact information on everyone who shows an interest in the group or who contributes something (money, time, services) to the organization.

Two bits of advice for people in this situation:

  • record lots more information than you think you need; if you do expand, you'll find it useful to know that one man is related to the Mayor, or that a husband-and-wife pair have lots of experience in public speaking.
  • when you find the organization growing, don't wait to get fundraising software—this is a case where "the sooner the better" is almost always right.

Situation #2 Your organization has unusual or industry-specific needs

Excel is a popular spreadsheet program that comes with most versions of Microsoft® Office. A spreadsheet provides a simple, but limited, way to set up basic record-keeping. Its main drawback is that, as more data is added, and more categories of data are needed, spreadsheets tend to become unwieldy and ultimately unusable.

Access is included with the Professional edition of MS-Office, and is actually a programming language and database manager that can be used to create a fundraising program. Think of it as SAR ("some assembly required") furniture: a box containing a collection of parts, tools, and obscure instructions that you hope to assemble into a useful object.

such as tracking school attendance and tuition payments, box-office theatre sales and ticketing, cabin rentals, or pet adoptions.

If this is you, then you have three options:

  1. Purchase two programs, one for fundraising, and the other for your special needs. This way you get software that is perfect for each activity.

If you can't find one that fits your special needs, then you might consider a custom or homegrown program for that one, but do your homework first, as this choice will inevitably be costly. Unless you are lucky enough to find two programs that talk to each other (share data back and forth, a rarity), you will find yourself doing some double-entry of data most commonly when you update someone’s address, e-mail, or phone number.

  1. Decide which activity, fundraising or the special need, is the most important to your mission. Then find commercial software that handles the critical aspect well and is also flexible enough to handle the basic requirements of the other need.

It’s not a perfect solution, but you avoid all the double-entry of data.

  1. Consider custom or homegrown software as a last option. It will always be the most expensive—and most likely to cause problems down the line.

You may start out with something that works wonderfully, but it will need constant maintenance and probably be outgrown eventually. You're very likely to end up spending huge amounts of money and time – you’ll be amazed at how much! At least look seriously at what software is available. Chances are good that somebody has already written a program to do what you need and you can save your resources to put toward your mission.

To see if FundRaiser Software might work for your organization

Watch this 5 minute video overview


3 Tips for Exporting Data to Spreadsheets
6 Ways to Customize FundRaiser Software

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